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  • Writer's pictureAttorney Jason A Greller

Wisconsin Property Law: the Difference between Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common.

If you are trying to decide how to title your property with a co-owner, you need to understand the differences between holding a property in Wisconsin as Joint Tenants or as Tenants in Common. Both are ways of owning property jointly, but they have different characteristics and implications:


Joint Tenancy:

  1. Right of survivorship: Joint tenancy includes the right of survivorship, which means that upon the death of one joint tenant, their interest in the property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant(s), regardless of any provisions in the deceased's will. This process avoids probate for the deceased's share of the property.

  2. Equal shares: Joint tenants must have equal ownership interests in the property. For example, if there are two joint tenants, each would own a 50% interest in the property.

  3. Unity of title, time, interest, and possession: Joint tenancy requires the four unities: title, time, interest, and possession. This means that joint tenants must acquire their interests in the property at the same time, in the same conveyancing instrument (such as a deed), with equal ownership interests, and have equal rights to possess and enjoy the property.

Tenants in Common:

  1. No right of survivorship: Unlike joint tenancy, tenants in common do not have the right of survivorship. When a tenant in common dies, their interest in the property passes to their heirs or beneficiaries according to their will or, if there is no will, according to the state's intestate succession laws. The deceased's share of the property must go through probate.

  2. Unequal shares: Tenants in common can have unequal ownership interests in the property. For example, one tenant in common could own a 60% interest, while the other owns a 40% interest.

  3. No unity requirement: Tenants in common do not need to satisfy the four unities of title, time, interest, and possession. They can acquire their interests in the property at different times and through different conveyancing instruments.

When choosing between joint tenancy and tenancy in common, it is essential to consider the implications for estate planning, property management, and the potential sale of the property. Consult with a real estate attorney familiar with Wisconsin property law to determine the best option for your situation.


Please note that this information is for general informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. Consult with a qualified attorney to discuss your specific situation and understand your legal options.

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